Thursday, November 8, 2012

Silver Polishing + Practical Life with Seniors 2

I continue to slowly, but steadily bring Montessori materials to The Bridge and find space for them on the back shelf. Thankfully, so thankfully, I receive encouragement to do so from my supervisor and, more and more, from the other staff members.

I wrote not too long ago about taking one of the seniors, who had become restless, on a botanical scavenger hunt. I have been going through my materials at home, which are very limited, in an attempt to respond to her personality with the just-the-right, next activity. For individuals with first and, perhaps, second stage dementia, the activities are not lessons. They are not used to teach a new ability or skill. Instead, they are provided for individuals to utilize skills they already have but may not have used recently. Sometimes, like with science projects, these prior learned skills may be used in new ways.

Yet, as dementia is complex and may even appear contradictory in regards to descriptions of, some individuals with dementia may learn new skills. Returning again to the science, one of the seniors that has attended all of the Science for Seniors activities did not have any prior science experience. She has recently been using science terminology during other non-science activities and in her descriptions. She said the other day, "My sweater has a lot of static electricity today." This was two weeks after we had done one or two static electricity projects.

Back to the restless senior...

She is very detail and task oriented. She likes to organize and to clean. She has attended cocktail and holiday parties.  Considering all of this, I decided silver polishing would be the activity to next bring to The Bridge. I did so today. I had purchased a couple of wicker trays at the Thrift a week ago, so I had a tray to use.

I brought from home to work the following - three antique, silver spoons that were quite fancy, a small fork and a baby spoon. These last two items were also antique and silver.  A small closeable container that had a dozen q-tips in it. A small, ceramic container to hold some of the silverware. A container of silver polish, non-liquid. A small, wooden bowl to hold polishing cloths and used q-tips.

After I arrived at work, I went looking for the remaining materials that I needed. I found a small, plastic, lidded container for the polish.  I found a red, apron/bib.  I also found cloth of two shades of blue which I cut into small rectangles to be used for applying the polish and for shining the silver while wiping away the dried polish.

Also, I placed a dozen red, paper place mats in the second wicker tray to be used as underlays. I cut a supply of cloths that I placed in a tin. This was placed on the shelf next to the silver polish tray. Yes, I put all that I brought from home and found at The Bridge on a tray and on a shelf. The apron/bib I rolled up and placed on the opposite side of the wicker tray as the tin.

The silver polish tray. The red and white fabric item to the left is the apron rolled up. The metal container on the right holds extra pieces of cut, blue cloth - both light and dark blue. 

Close-up photos:

This one below is a little blurry...sorry.

After the tray and other items were arranged, I invited one of the staff assistants to come and view the materials with me. I showed her the tray and explained that it was for silver polishing. I briefly described each of the steps to use it and for whom I had brought it in for. Yet, I also stated that it was available for others to use if interest was shown.

There was a half hour before lunch was to be served. Most of the other seniors were engaged in a group activity on the floor. The senior who I described as being restless at times began to wander. I calmly approached her and asked her if she could help me with something. I told her that I needed to have some items polished as they had become tarnished. I also stated that they were my grandmother's (true, actually) and I wanted to make sure they were cared for, but that I was too busy to do it myself. Would she help me, I asked. She instantly agreed.

We walked to the back room and I showed her the tray and the apron/bib. She took the tray to one of the large tables and I brought the apron/bib and the red, paper place mat. She put on the apron/bib while I placed the place mat on the table in front of her. She then took everything off the tray and moved the tray to the end of the table.

"Sure. I can do this. I wish we had the liquid polish cleaner I have at home. I would have these done in minutes if we did," she stated.

I replied, "The liquid cleaner has a strong order that would bother some of the other seniors. That is why I chose this type instead."

"No worries my Dear. I will clean these up just fine," she stated and then went to work. 

And I mean work. She dug the polish covered, cotton swabs into every groove of the silver spoons and fork.

She then took one cloth at a time and began wiping away the polish. After twenty five minutes, she rose and went to a sink area set up for seniors to wash their hands and, now, the silverware. She then dried each utensil. They were so clean! They glistened when sunlight hit them.

Before I knew it it was time for lunch. The senior polishing, cleaned up the items used and put them back on the tray. I returned it to the shelf as she was hungry for her lunch time meal.

The cycle of activity that is so significant in regards to student work is not always completed by seniors with dementia. They may have no recollection of taking the tray from the shelf, so how would they return it. The cycle of activity, therefore becomes altered. It is now taking the tray to a table, taking things off the tray, using them and returning them to the tray that remains on the table. Sometimes, I bring the tray to the table to allow them to visually view the activity in hopes that they will then want to engage it.

Today's silver polishing activity warmed my heart. I saw familiar materials now used in a new setting. Montessori for seniors? Absolutely!

For a Montessori lesson on silver polishing go here. I think I am going to take away the polish I now have on the tray and replace it with their baking soda and salt polish. However, I must say that I am not in favor of the use of a toothbrush for this work. It might serve as a good tool for an adult that does not have dementia, but it could be very confusing for one that did.

Also, I do not see it as an appropriate tool for a child. I hesitated using cotton swaps with the silver polish tray today and, over the years, in classroom settings as I did not want to misrepresent how they were used. Yet, swabs are used in multiple settings and for multiple purposes other than cleaning ears of wax. Toothbrushes are generally used for cleaning teeth. So, you will have to decide whether to use a toothbrush with the activity or find an alternative tool yourself. Good luck : )


Sarah Scherrer said...

wonderful! Although my training is only for children two-and-one-half thru six years old, I am very interested in using Montessori works with the elderly.

Susan Y. Dyer said...


You have the same training as I have. I have been an AMI Primary guide for 16 years. Catholic Community Services, where I now work, is open to me bringing the Montessori method to seniors. My Primary training serves this, as do all of the refresher courses and other trainings I have taken over the years.

I am writing my own Montessori with Senior albums. These posts are the first drafts of those albums. These posts are my field notes, my observation note pages and the documentation and celebration of this new Montessori passion of mine and others around the world - Montessori for Seniors. If you want to join this international movement then go out into your own community and find a senior program, tell them about the Montessori method and ask them if you may introduce it to the seniors attending the program.

Then write me about it and share with me your observations, lesson/activities introduced and all that you witness.


Susan Dyer
The Moveable Alphabet